In the opening minutes of Zanka Contact, a smart and funny sex worker named Rajae tells a dark joke about a car crash to her taxi driver. Moments later, she is in a dramatic crash herself. Larsen, a faded rock star and addict, is also involved in the crash, leading the unlikely duo to cross paths. Their explosive meeting sets the scene for an intense and bizarre love story, set in Casablanca, Morocco.

Khansa Batma is excellent as Rajae, whose softness and strength make her a deeply sympathetic character. Her romance with Larsen (Ahmed Hammoud, also giving a great performance) is believable. They are two lost souls whose differences make them one another’s escape routes from their difficult lives. At times their love affair feels cringe-worthy: when Larsen tutors Rajae in singing, the gender politics recalls the more dated scenes in Grease. Mostly though, the couple are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, equally shunned by society and equally in need of love.

With elements of mythology and pantomime adding to the plot’s high drama, Zanka Contact is tonally a very mixed bag. Sudden shifts between light comedy and intense violence feel like whiplash and leave the film disconnected from recognisable genres. This makes it a strange and sometimes difficult watch, but a refreshing one: it’s totally unlike the predictable fare of mainstream Hollywood films. It was always going to be a love story, though, and if the violence wasn’t so intense and frequent, it might be one to return to again and again.

Zanka Contact is a stylish and exciting watch, delivered with great acting and a catchy theme song, but its tonal shifts and messy plot mean that it never quite finds its feet. There’s a little too much darkness to be a satisfying romance, and a little too much realism to make it an escapist music film.



CAST: Khansa Batma, Ahmed Hammoud, Said Bey

DIRECTOR: Ismaël el Iraki

WRITER: Ismaël el Iraki

SYNOPSIS: In Casablanca, a faded rock star and a streetwise sex worker meet in dramatic circumstances, leading them on a passionate, violent quest to find their mutual redemption.